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Monday, March 19 2012

When people think about eating healthier, their thoughts tend to gravitate toward cutting out calories and fat. And who can blame them? Too many calories make you gain weight, and too much weight often leads to health problems. On top of that, even if you're already at a healthy weight, you should still watch your fat intake. Trans fats are considered a huge no-no nowadays because of their link to heart disease, and saturated fat isn't far behind. But another aspect of healthy eating that doesn't always get the attention it deserves is sodium intake. Too much sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart and kidney problems, as well as strokes.

But it can be all too easy to forget about watching your sodium count. Fast food restaurants have started offering delicious salads and snacks that are low in fat and calories and seem like the perfect option when you're trying to eat better and don't have time to cook. But oftentimes, the restaurants compensate for the lack of flavor derived from fat by adding extra sodium to make the food taste better. This is true for one of my favorite fast food salads. The calories are low, the fat is manageable, but once I add up the sodium in the chicken, salad, and dressing, the total is over one thousand milligrams, almost half the recommended daily dosage! I'd actually be better off ordering a cheeseburger.

And once you decide to start watching your sodium, it may be hard to track. Many cooking magazines don't bother to list any nutritional information, but even those that do often only list the calories, fat, carbs, and protein information, things they figure the average home cook wants to know. They leave sodium off altogether. The good news is that if you're doing a lot of home cooking, you're already ahead of the game in terms of sodium consumption. It's those packaged breads, frozen dinners, and snacks that you really have to watch out for.

Once you start checking the nutritional labels of packaged foods at the supermarket, you'll find it's habit-forming, almost like a game as you try to find products with the lowest levels of sodium. Pretty soon, you'll turn in to an honest-to-goodness sodium detective. And your body will thank you for it.

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 10:03 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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